Archbishop Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo of Merida, president of the episcopal conference, published a reply Tuesday on behalf of the bishops to the "great insults committed by the president of the nation, Hugo Chávez."
After referring to the country's grave political and economic crisis, the statement calls for the urgent holding of a recall referendum, as provided in the Constitution.
"There will be no social peace in Venezuela if confidence in public powers is not restored," it states. "The real participation of all citizens is necessary in making the important decisions that affect the life and future of the country."
"Therefore, given the very antagonistic positions, there is an urgent need for a popular consultation that restores confidence and tranquility to the country, and that institutions and legitimacy are reinforced," the statement adds. "To effect this, there is in the present juridical ordering the possibility of a constitutional way out: the recall referendum."
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Venezuelan lawmakers traded blows during a marathon debate on Supreme Court reforms that the opposition fears could weaken its bid for a vote to recall Chávez.
The acrimonious all-night debate in the National Assembly, which was suspended until Thursday, reflected political tensions gripping the nation as it waited for electoral authorities to set regulations for a referendum.